The Liberation of Auschwitz

By HEDY EPSTEIN, January 27, 1995

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Armed Forces entered the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Caught up in World War II, the world took no special notice of this event.

I lived in London, England at the time (at the age of 14, I arrived in London in May 1939 on a Children’s Transport of 500 children, ranging in age from twins, 6 months old, to 17 years) and closely followed the movements of the Allied Forces by reading the newspapers and listening to the radio. Yet, I have no specific recollection of that day. Nor did I know at the time that both my parents and other family members had been deported to Auschwitz in August and September 1942 from camps in southern (Vichy) France.

In an August 9, 1942 letter my Father wrote to me: “tomorrow I am going to be deported to an unknown destination, and it may be a very long time before you hear from me again…..” In a September 1, 1942 letter my Mother wrote to me: “…..Another transport is leaving from here, and this time I am leaving on it. My only hope is that I will still meet your Papa somewhere, and then we will carry our lot, no matter how difficult it may be, with dignity and courage…..Continue to be always good and honest. Carry your head high and never lose your courage. Don’t forget your parents. Don’t forget any of us. We shall continue to hope that one day we will see each other again, even if it takes a long time…..”

How long is a long time? A week? A month? A year? Ten years? And so I waited and waited, telling myself “a long time just isn’t over yet.”

In the summer of 1956 I received letters from a French organization, informing me that my parents had been deported to Auschwitz on September 11, 1942.

Despite what I had learned by 1956 about the horrors of Auschwitz, I continued to hope to be reunited with my parents somewhere, somehow.

It was not until September 1980, when I stood on the ramp in Auschwitz where the selection was made by Dr. Josef Mengele and his cohorts as to who will live and who will die, that I finally accepted the death of my parents and other family members.

On this 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz we remember the images of corpses, of the living dead. Images which are the vessels of our memory. Images which bypass rationality. They are the universal markers of incredible suffering. These images, these memories will not bring back all the loved ones who lost their lives. But, I hope they have made us ever vigilant, and have instilled in us the wisdom, strength and values to be actively involved in the struggle to insure that such atrocities will not befall any people, anywhere, at any time. This is the legacy of the Holocaust for me.